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Twelfth Night


Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare


"Twelfth Night," also known as "What You Will," is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written around 1601–1602 as a Twelfth Night's entertainment for the close of the Christmas season. The play centers on the twins Viola and Sebastian, who are separated in a shipwreck. Viola (who disguises herself as a man named Cesario) falls in love with Duke Orsino, who in turn is in love with the Countess Olivia. Upon meeting Viola, however, Olivia falls in love with her thinking she is a man.


  • Love and Desire: The play explores various forms of love, including romantic love, unrequited love, and friendship. The characters' desires often lead to comedic situations and misunderstandings.
  • Identity and Disguise: Viola's disguise as Cesario is central to the plot, creating a complex web of identity confusion that drives the comedic elements of the play.
  • Folly and Foolishness: Characters such as Malvolio, Sir Toby Belch, and Feste contribute to the play's commentary on social ambition and the folly of self-deception.


  • Viola/Cesario: The play's protagonist, who disguises herself as a man, leading to a series of comedic and romantic entanglements.
  • Orsino: The Duke of Illyria, in love with Olivia but finds himself drawn to Cesario.
  • Olivia: A wealthy countess, mourning her brother's death, who rejects Orsino's advances but falls for Cesario.
  • Sebastian: Viola's twin brother, whose arrival in Illyria leads to further confusion and ultimately resolution.
  • Malvolio: Olivia's pompous steward, who is tricked into believing Olivia loves him, adding a layer of comedic cruelty to the play.

Plot Overview

After a shipwreck, Viola is washed ashore in Illyria, believing her brother Sebastian to be dead. She disguises herself as Cesario to serve Duke Orsino, causing a complex love triangle when she falls for Orsino, who sends her to woo Olivia on his behalf, only for Olivia to fall for Cesario. Meanwhile, Sebastian arrives in Illyria, leading to mistaken identities and eventual reunions. The subplot involving Malvolio's humiliation by Sir Toby, Maria, and Feste adds to the play's critique of pretension and folly.


"Twelfth Night" resolves its tangled plot in a festive conclusion, where identities are revealed, misunderstandings are cleared, and couples are joyously united. The play remains a favorite for its lively wit, complex characters, and enduring themes of love, identity, and the human condition.